Easter In Big
By Shawn Pagan
The trip started out uneventful. Got the jeep hooked up to the truck on Wednesday night – later then I wanted to but what else is new….
Thursday morning we were up at 4:30 to get started on the 600-mile trip. Most of our friends were smarter then we as they choose to leave on Wednesday night –drive about 5 hours then stay in a motel. The trip was rather uneventful, well except for my daughter getting sick in Ft. Stockton… but then again we did choose to eat at Dairy Queen.
We arrived at Terlingua Ranch about 5:30 PM and checked in. Everyone else was already there and setting up camp. We unloaded the truck and relaxed the rest of the day.
The next morning we got together and selected our runs… our group was running late so we told the trail leader to head out and we would catch up with him. We were going to start out running a scenic route called 360. Bruce Shirey was leading us around and took us up a hill to a lookout point where someone (sometime ago) had built a table and chairs to look around the valley and the ranch. The climb was a little off camber but no one had any problems.
We continued on with Bruce taking a wrong turn and driving us all over the ranch before getting hooked back up with the original trail group and heading for 360. The climb up to 360 is pretty easy but off camber in various areas. The view is worth the drive. I think one can see from Alpine, TX to Mexico… And it was interesting to climb the rock structure and look around the ranch. Little lines of Jeeps (looked like ants) were crawling around all over the place.
We came back down 360 and climbed up a couple of optional hills. All of a sudden Dan stopped and radioed that he had a coolant problem. We all assumed he meant that he was over heating. Once he climbed down into the valley with us we realized that he said “Cooler” problem, as his soft-sided cooler had decided to leak (more like drain) into the cab of his Cherokee and his kids were floating in the back seat… at least it cooled them off!
We made the long climb to the top of a shale hill, then down into another valley then up a 100-yard long granite sluice (a “V” in the rocks if you will). This area was a little unnerving as one tire would lift off the ground as you came thru the sluice, and you wanted to make sure that all tires had traction as you did not want to slide sideways into the sluice. At the top we stopped and waited for the rest of the group to catch up. About that time Jim realized that he was having problems with his CJ2A – he had ran out of gas. Evidently there was gas in the tank and the gauge showed a ¼ tank, but the pickup didn’t run all the way to the bottom of the tank – go figure.
No one had any extra gas and we were not sure that was the problem so Jack Brinks hooked up a tow strap to the little yellow jeep and we decided to tow Jim back to camp. Jack was elected due to the massive power output from his 401… either that or simply because he was the next person in line J. This was more or less uneventful, with a minor exception of finding a locked gate on the way back to camp and having to backtrack and find our way out without a guide.
After getting Jim back to camp we decided to go out and run through the river bottom. This run starts out by following a canyon back to the point where it disappears into a hillside.
Then you come back to camp via the runoff area or river bottom. You would be going uphill against the flow of the water – if there were any water flowing. Basically you climb step after step until you get back to the main road. Lockers are a definite plus especially for the optional obstacles.
About half way back to camp one comes to an area that must be driven around – an area that is impassable by vehicle, but a short foot walk takes one back 1000 years to an area in the rocks where one can imagine that nothing motorized even exists.
After we fished playing around on this run it was time to head in and get cleaned up for dinner… get some sleep and wake up to attack “Stairway to Heaven”,
About 7:00 am we ate breakfast. The girls were all going to head out to Lajitas and do some shopping and get lunch etc. while the rest of us went to play. We started out with 6 vehicles; a Red YJ w/ 35" Swampers, a Red CJ with 35" Goodyear MT/R's (the new ones), Black CJ w/ 35" BFG MT's, a green YJ w/ AT's, an early model Scout with 33" BFG MT's and my TJ. Along the way we picked up two more vehicles, a basically stock TJ (came to watch) and a Toyota P/U (also came to watch).
When I got to the trail my first thought was “That’s a trail”?
The Red CJ headed up first. After making the first obstacle look easy they started walking everyone else through the first obstacle. The Black CJ made it as well, I choose to back down, the green YJ didn’t even attempt the first obstacle and the Red YJ just about rolled over. The Scout made the first obstacle / entrance with ease.
The second obstacle on the trail is an extreme off camber to the right climb followed by a severe downhill and drop off into a “V” shaped ditch that runs at an angle to the trail. It is a precarious position sometime lifting the drivers rear tire off the ground as one descends. The red CJ made it through after backing down once and correcting his line. The Black CJ had no problems until after he exited the “V” – he had been lined up with the exit a little wrong and creased his finder flare. Next came the Scout – well sort of.
It seems the Scout had broken a front lower control arm. It had actually busted the arm not leaving enough thread to put in a new heim joint. We ended up drilling a hold through the arm and putting a bolt through the frame to hold it. That along with wrapping a come-along around the axle helped us to get him down off the side of the mountain and back to camp. The drive down the hill was an experience in itself. Check the back cover of the newsletter – I’m talking serious pucker power.
I then left out on a trail called pack saddle and drive around to the top of the mountain. This in itself was somewhat adventurous since we ended up driving the trail backwards, which exposes a server downhill off camber section over erosion borders that are built into the side of a hill.
I picked a spot on the hill and spent the next few hours watching the two CJ’s (black and Red) wind their way slowly through the Stairway. My only thoughts were about what I needed to do to get my vehicle to conquer this pathway. After the two of them completed the trail – about 12:00 in the afternoon, we all headed back to camp.
All in all it was a good weekend in Big Bend. We spent some time with some people we really enjoyed and we got to see some amazing countryside. Oh yeah and we even had all the kids wake up to an in their room Easter Sunday and Egg Hunt. (For a Technical Overview Of The Dana 44 Scout Axles Swapped Into One Of The Black CJ7's Click Here)